There have been and are still available other splendid printed collections of Scottish historical documents. This documents volume, however, which comprises over 140 separate sources, is different in several respects. Most of the documents have been made available in this accessible format for the first time, as in the case of a pamphlet urging Scots in 1715 to support the Stuarts, even though the Pretender was a Catholic (Document 10). Only two copies of this document, both handwritten, are known to exist. Several documents have been drawn from archival holdings which have only recently been made available to the public; others are examples of categories of sources the potential of which historians have only recently recognised or which have been underutilised. An example of a relatively new type of source for historians is oral testimony, here taken from women and which provides revealing insight into women's attitudes to work, marriage and household in the first half of the twentieth century (Document 117). The Statistical Account of Scotland, produced by parish ministers in the 1790s, continues to be a unique and multi-seamed source for Scottish historians, much used hitherto, but still capable of producing fresh evidence, especially when evidence is drawn from it systematically, for comparative purposes. A similar case can be made for the New Statistical Account volumes of the 1830s and 1840s.
Another merit of this collection is that all the documents are drawn from the post-Union of 1707 period. This enables the reader to obtain a much deeper understanding of the last three momentous centuries in Scotland's history than would be the case with a collection of documents covering a longer time-span.
The volume provides an immensely rich resource for lecturers, teachers and their students to engage with much of the essence of Scottish social, economic, political and cultural life over the past three centuries. Any academically respectable course in Scottish social history of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries must pay some attention to issues such as demography, agrarian change (Highland and Lowland), industrialisation, urbanisation, labour, class and radicalism. Many of these are revisited: but in the context of the later Victorian era and the twentieth century, as Scotland's economy lost its nineteenth-century dynamism (as well as its raw material base) and as, for example, the state played an increasingly active role in the Highlands, or in determining the nature of educational provision in the schools.
Few students of Scottish history will not spend some time examining the causes and consequences of the Union of 1707 or the series of Jacobite risings of 1708 . . .